Susan Tross, PhD
New York State Psychiatric Institute
Women in drug-using communities are one of the fastest growing groups of people with AIDS in the U.S. Female drug users, even if they are in drug treatment, are at especially high risk for heterosexual transmission of HIV: they are often in primary sexual relationships with male drug users, some continue to use drugs despite being in treatment, and, under the influence of drugs (especially cocaine or crack) they are more likely to engage in unprotected sex. It has been shown that drug abuse treatment can reduce activities related to drug use that increase the risk of HIV transmission. Sexual risk behaviors have received less attention, however, than those directly related to drug use. This study looked at a program for women in drug abuse treatment designed to build safer sexual skills and reduce unprotected sexual risk behavior. The program includes five sessions of group treatment that focus on assessing HIV risk, HIV safer sex problem solving, condom use, negotiation skills, and assertiveness training. This program was compared to one session of HIV education, which is typically provided as standard care in drug treatment clinics.